A History of European Mass Spectrometry

A History of European Mass Spectrometry Cover

ISBN: 978-1-906715-04-5.
Price £30.00

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The construction of Thompson’s mass spectrograph in Cambridge almost exactly a century ago followed by Aston’s improved instruments and his pioneering work on non-radioactive isotopes is widely known. In the sixty years or so since then, European scientists and engineers have made many major contributions to the development of new instruments and techniques. Accounts of these contributions in the scientific literature necessarily give little idea of the contributors themselves or of the difficulties that had to be overcome before success was achieved.

Most newcomers to mass spectrometry in the last ten years will have little concept of the difficulties faced in obtaining the mass spectra of four solid samples during a working day before the invention of the vacuum lock probe. This was followed by several hours of counting spectra and trying to interpret them. Many will never have seen a magnetic deflection instrument and will be familiar only with mass spectrometers having both the operation of the instrument and the interpretation of the data under computer control.

This book aims to give an insight into how some of the more important developments came about, from the advent of the first commercial instruments to the present day. The various accounts, several of which contain personal reminiscences, both provide a human background to these developments and convey the excitement of being part of the European mass spectrometry community during this period.

Chapters include:

  • The foundations of mass spectrometry in Europe—the first fifty years by Keith R. Jennings
  • Fundamentals by Nico M.M. Nibbering
  • GC/MS and LC/MS by Andries Bruins
  • From field desorption to MALDI and to the resurgence of time-of-flight mass spectrometry by Michael Karas
  • Mass spectrometry in Manchester by Bob Bateman
  • Mass spectrometry in Bremen, a tribute to Dr Ludolf Jenckel by Jochen Franzen
  • A short story about the life of Curt Brunnée by Michael C. ten Noever de Brauw
  • The European history of peptide and protein mass spectrometry by Peter Roepstorff
  • Applications to small biomolecules and developments in Central and Eastern Europe by Károly Vékey
  • Industrial and environmental applications by Jim Scrivens
  • Scientific societies and meetings in Europe by Alison E. Ashcroft
  • Index


Anal. Bioanal. Chem. (February 2013)
They present a fascinating story of the people who, in the middle of the twentieth century, had a vision of mass spectrometry as one of the most useful analytical methods in chemistry. In my opinion this is the most interesting part of the book, providing an eyewitness account of how many obstacles had to be circumvented to reach the level of quality seen in modern mass spectrometers.

In conclusion: every scientist, young or old, who works with mass spectrometry will find something of interest in this book.

Mass Matters (December 2012)
“Above all, it is the dedication and enthusiasm of the scientists involved that stands out and makes for engrossing reading.”

“The feeling of the humanity of mass spectrometry epitomizes the thread of this book; the recollections veering toward the more social science than the physical science that we may be used to. The logical progression of this book enables the reader to follow the amazing developments that have so heavily influenced physics, chemistry and biology whilst gaining insight to the life and times of the scientists that have accomplished so much over the last sixty or so years. As editor, Keith has certainly achieved a highly interesting and informative book that is easy and enjoyable  to read.”

Spectroscopy Europe (2012)
“The book’s eleven chapters cover an eclectic mix of topics, written by respected scientists who know their way around a mass spectrometer. Their recollections of their own experiences serve to lighten the book and make reading it a more pleasurable experience. They focus on the techniques as well as the geographic centres of excellence in Europe which made invaluable contributions to mass spectrometry. The level of content in all of the chapters is impressive and it is supplemented by many historical photographs of instruments and the people involved in their development, which is one of the enjoyable aspects of this book, bringing the history to light.”

A History of European Mass Spectrometry provides an important historical record of the birth and growth of the technique on that continent. But it is more than that. It is a fascinating journey punctuated by anecdotes, personal accounts and many photographs and I recommend it to anyone who has any interest in mass spectrometry.”

About the Editor

Keith R. Jennings worked on various aspects of mass spectrometry for over 40 years at the Universities of Sheffield and Warwick. He was a recipient of the ASMS Distinguished Contribution to Mass Spectrometry Award, the ACS Field and Franklin Award and the International Mass Spectrometry Foundation Thomson Medal and the BMSS Aston Medal for his work on metastable transitions and collision-induced decomposition of ions. He is a former chairman of BMSS and was the author of nearly 200 publications and has lectured in more than 20 countries on mass spectrometry.

Keith Jennings